Issue of June 28, 2015

Courier Anniversary Issue
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Unfinished business

Here we go again. Last week, La Trinidad Mayor Edna C. Tabanda formally submitted to the municipal council a copy of a proposed contract of lease between the local government unit and Jarco Realty and Development Corporation for the putting up of a P268-million multipurpose commercial complex on 3,910 square meters of land owned by the LGU.

With the proposed contract was a two-page letter containing amendments to the build-operate-transfer contract inked by both parties in 2009.

Tabanda’s letter was a revelation. First, it contained six amendments to the 2009 contract, including a provision for rental rates that were much lower than what the LGU’s finance committee had recommended. To illustrate, the committee proposed a lot rental of P120 per sq.m./month for the first five years if the municipality is to earn income. Tabanda’s proposal stood at P35/sq.m/month.

Second, it now referred to the BOT contract as a “contract of lease.” Third, according to Vice Mayor Romeo Salda, the letter did not reflect what was agreed upon in a previous meeting: that Tabanda was seeking authorization to sign a new contract with Jarco.

Fourth, Tabanda’s letter was a total turn-around from what she earlier told the media (BMC, July 7, 2013) in her first week of office that the LGU will not pursue the Jarco mall development in the absence of an endorsement from the National Economic and Development Authority. She told reporters then the market area was not for a mall and that the contract was prejudicial to the town’s interest.

By all means, the Tabanda administration is justified in seeking means to “uplift economic progress and development for the people of La Trinidad” as predicated in its proposed contract of lease. But what is it with the Jarco contract that will convince the mayor to change her mind and to disregard the option presented by the finance committee?

It also stands to reason to ask if a feasibility study has been conducted to determine the benefits to be derived as well as its impact on the environment, on limited resources such as water supply, and on the pair of market buildings in its vicinity.

On the other hand, several councilors maintained that while the 2009 contract was valid, the introduction of amendments necessitates public consultations before any authorization is sought.

The layman’s term for it is due process, without which any contract involving government property will not stand scrutiny and public acceptance.

It is the hallmark of good governance to ensure that the process is characterized by transparency and free exchange of ideas.

The least the La Trinidad citizenry can afford is to be split in the middle by a project that is hazy or doubtful at best as the stakes are decidedly far greater than the kind of investments public officials prefer.

Public accountability demands the people of La Trinidad must be involved every step of the way. For now, it remains a byway clouded in uncertainty and one that does not shape up as worthy of consideration at this stage.



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